I cannot tell you how many times in my life someone has told me that I inspire them, or something along those lines. When I was much younger, I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I liked it. Whenever someone told me how amazing I was for living my life in a wheelchair, I took their well-meaning words at face value. “Of course I am,” I’d think. (I was so humble at 14 years old…haha.) Then I’d smile, thank them, and move on. It’s a lot easier to not read into things when you’re a kid, I think.
In addition to the fact that I’ve definitely learned I’m not all that amazing at things, even if I’m dealing with the extra challenges a wheelchair presents, I’ve also come to interpret these comments from people differently.
I know when people say these things, they don’t mean anything by them. I know what it is to admire someone for dealing with difficulties. I’ve even said similar words myself about other people. But I would just like to share some of the things I’ve thought recently, especially since becoming a mom, when people have said these things to me.
“I don’t know how you do it. I certainly couldn’t.”
First of all, yes, you could. Life is hard sometimes for everybody. Being a parent makes it even harder. And you just deal with whatever challenges your life brings. There really is no other option, right? Secondly, that is giving me way too much credit. Yes, being in a wheelchair is super challenging at times. God has blessed me with the sort of personality that, most of the time, I face these challenges head on. And when I don’t? I have a super supportive husband and family that helps. Even my 2 1/2-year-old seems to sense that sometimes I need help. He will pick things up for me or push my wheelchair up the ramp at our house. Honestly, though, I have pity parties for myself on occasion. My current woe is not having a car to drive. Which will hopefully be solved soon. But for now, I will whine about it occasionally just like everybody else does about their problems. I know this sentiment is an offering of encouragement. But please let me tell you, it isn’t very encouraging.
“Good for you getting out there and (fill in the blank).”
Gee, thanks. What am I supposed to do? Live on the couch? Again, I know it’s meant to be a compliment, but really, it just feels like a pronouncement that my life in a wheelchair is so sad that it’s admirable that I even get out of bed. I have heard this at the gym, or when I play violin somewhere people don’t know me, or when I’m with my son somewhere by myself. My life in a wheelchair is normal for me and it is worth living to the fullest, just like yours. Once in awhile, being in a wheelchair is pretty crappy, but most of the time, it’s just life. Good days and bad days. And I’ve learned how to live pretty well by now that I don’t consider much of it admirable.
“You’re such an inspiration.”
I totally get this. I certainly admire people who I feel are dealing with more difficult things than I am. What I think is important to remember is that it’s all relative. I deal with many things that are more difficult than being in a wheelchair. I’m sure you do, too. Most days, I don’t feel all that inspiring. I get up, work, and take care of my kid just like anybody else. But hey, if you want to be inspired by me, I won’t take offense to it. Just realize that you may inspire me just as much as I inspire you.
“Can I pray for you?”
I will never turn down offers for prayer. After all, I think we could all use more prayers and well-wishes. But usually, this question is followed by a completely unsubtle person kneeling down next to me, wherever we happen to be, and asking God to heal me —#awkward.
Now, I totally believe, if God chose to take away my disability, he could. But do I think he’s going to do it because a person makes a spectacle of praying for me so lots of other people can see? Probably not. And I’m okay with that. I’m content.
One thing I don’t mind is offers for help.
Keep those coming. Reach something for me on a high store shelf? Yes, please! Hold the door for me? Yeah, sure. I will accept some with a smile and decline some with a no, thank you. So please, continue to offer. Just don’t try to push my wheelchair without asking. Cause I’ll almost always say no. Do you ask people to carry you around?
And lastly, if your kid starts asking me questions, please don’t be embarrassed. Kids just want to learn and I love telling them about the ways I am different from them. You can ask me questions too. I’m happy to answer them. We’re all a bit better off when we understand more about each other.